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Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) says he's waiting on the CBO numbers to come in before he takes a stand on the new health care reform deal in the Senate.

"I don't know yet," he told reporters today when asked if the new deal has what it takes to unite the Democratic caucus. "I have some concerns myself."

He said he wants to see if the new plan saves as much money as the public option it replaces. Feingold said the CBO reported the Senate public option plan from the bill would save $25 billion.

Feingold said that even if the deal doesn't have what it takes to get to 60 votes, the negotiations have given Senators "psychological momentum" to push ahead to a final bill.

Tuesday December 8, 2009 was the annual holiday Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. This year's tree, the "Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree," is an 85-foot tall, 9,000-pound, 70-year-old Arizona Blue Spruce from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

All photos by Jeff Malet /

Just before the ceremony, Arizona's White Mountain Apache Tribe Crown Dancers performed, accompanied by these drummers.

Photo by Jeff Malet /

A White Mountain Apache Tribe Crown Dancer.

Jeff Malet /

The United States Marine Band.

Jeff Malet /

Stephen T. Ayers, acting architect of the Capitol, is responsible for the facilities maintenance and operation of the historic Capitol Building, the care and improvement of more than 450 acres of Capitol grounds, and the operation and maintenance of 16.5 million square feet of buildings.

Jeff Malet /

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Jeff Malet /

It is tradition that one child from the tree's state light the Capitol Christmas Tree with the Speaker of the House. This year's winner was 12-year-old Kaitlyn Ferencik from Surprise, Arizona.

Jeff Malet /

Gov. Janice K. Brewer (R-AZ), Kaitlyn Ferencik, Speaker Pelosi, and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).

Jeff Malet /

Kaitlyn traveled to Washington, D.C. with her parents, Erika and Troy Ferencik, and her sisters.

Jeff Malet /

The Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree traveled 4,600 miles to the nation's Capitol, stopping at 28 towns and communities in Arizona along the way. It is decorated with 6,000 handcrafted ornaments made by Arizona school children.

Jeff Malet /

New polls in South Carolina suggest that the political heat seems to have died down for scandal-plagued Gov. Mark Sanford, with voters opposing impeachment, and split on whether he should even resign.

A new survey today from Public Policy Polling (D) has a 47% plurality of South Carolina voters saying Sanford shouldn't resign, in a statistical dead heat with the 45% who say Sanford should resign. Voters oppose impeachment by an event greater margin: 58% against, 32% for. The margin of error is ±4.1%. Republicans widely support Sanford, Democrats oppose him, and independents are fairly close to the top-line results.

"South Carolinians are pretty unhappy with Mark Sanford but they also want this whole saga to go away," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo.

A Rasmussen poll from last Friday had South Carolina voters opposing impeachment by 49%-36%, and similar dead of 42%-41% against resignation. A previous Rasmussen poll from June, in the heat of the scandal, favored resignation by 46%-39%, and opposing impeachment by 48%-40%.

President Obama called on bipartisanship from Congress to help rebuild the economy, saying that spurring hiring and economic growth are not issues belonging to one party.

Obama, who had just finished a meeting with Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room to detail his latest job creation idea, said he was calling on them to extend relief to state governments and seniors and to support his plan for credits to homeowners making their homes energy efficient.

"I am absolutely committed to working with anybody who is willing to do the job to make sure that we can rebuild our economy and make sure that Americans across the country regardless of political persuasion," Obama said.

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Public option supporter Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said last night that the Senate deal may be stronger than the watered-down public options passed by the House and considered by the Senate.

"I think it is not fair to simply say they're abandoning the public option," he told Rachel Maddow. "What you're looking at is trade-offs, which in fact at the end of the day may be stronger than the very weak public options that both the House and the Senate have already passed."

Sanders has been a staunch supporter of the public option throughout the health care debate and has said he'd be "very reluctant" to vote for a bill without one.

Other public option supporters, including Rep. Anthony Weiner and former DNC chair Howard Dean, have praised the deal, especially the Medicare buy-in.


An anti-corruption law that has been central to the convictions of numerous public officials and corporate executives in recent years could be at risk of being struck down or narrowed after it was met with extreme skepticism by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

The honest services law, enacted in 1988, makes it a crime "to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." Prosecutors frequently use it against politicians or corporate executives believed to have defrauded their constituents or employers. Jack Abramoff, former congressman William Jefferson, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, and newspaper magnate Conrad Black all have been convicted, at least in part, of honest services fraud in the last few years.

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